I once read a book about the history of transportation engineers as the arch enemy of the transportation reformer. While it is true that the idea that we can build highways until congestion went away can be traced back to many of the top transportation engineers during the Eisenhower Presidency, but that was half a century ago. Today, many engineers are also reformers and there’s a lot we can work together on.
For example, transportation engineers can be hugely important allies when pushing a Fix-It-First agenda. The most recent edition of ASCE News, the American Society for Civil Engineering’s monthly publication, has reprinted the testimony of two of their members, Andrew Hermann and Kevin Womack, on the state of America’s infrastructure.
Some highlights of their testimony:
"To provide orderly, predictable, and sufficient allocations to meet current and future demand. By fiscal year 2009, the fund (Federal Transportation Trust Fund) may be overdrawn by as much as $4.3 billion."
"Investments to improve the condition and functionality of the nation’s bridges will reduce the required investment in the future."
In other words, we need a lot more money just to repair our highway system, and by investing in repair now (perhaps instead of expansion?), we can reduce that future need.
Womack’s testimony focused more on the how-to’s of bridge inspection, but he still noted that the federal government needs to step up its funding to keep a repeat of the Minneapolis disaster from happening.
ASCE released a report card in 2005 looking at the state of our infrastructure. You can read it here.